How to Develop an Ethical Corporate Culture

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How to Develop an Ethical Corporate CultureAll over the world, corruption in governments, companies, and society, in general, has unmasked itself and is posing a real threat to modern civilization. There are many reasons for the situation, but it is not the purpose of this article to discuss the problem. What is the goal of this article is to propose that companies can help rebuild ethical behavior-at least in the workplace. Indeed, the hope is ethical behavior in the workplace can spread to society in general.

Of course, when expounding on our world situation, we must add the caveat that for most of us, our world comes created and packaged on a TV screen and the content we see is decided by a few anonymous editors who decide how to create our world for us. However, it’s pretty much a consensus that many of our problems are symptoms of the deterioration of more traditional values that champion the general welfare and not totally focused on individual success.

Everyone agrees that corporate culture plays an important part in a company’s success. We train our employees on how to treat clients with respect and meeting their needs puts food on the table. However, having corporate policies can mean little if not internalized by employees. You may say that creating and promoting values is something developed in the home, but unfortunately, in our modern society, parents are too busy just trying to cope with a two-income family existence. Schools and the insidious influences of adolescent peer group values and the seduction of a consumer society have become more important in the formation of values in support of ego-centric-narcist behavior. We all know that, but most of us are too politically correct to express that opinion openly. But the effects are coming home to roost.

Employment and Survival

Having gainful employment is a major goal for survival in today’s world. Indeed, many millennials, who are flooding into the employment categories, are very concerned with not being absorbed into a corporate culture that is solely focused on measuring success by stock price or bottom line. This may be a good thing and portends changes in the future. Employers can do much to help capture and leverage values that can not only benefit the company but also society in general. The following are some ideas of how the corporate culture can help develop useful ethical beliefs and actions and still fit in with the idea of Capitalism and profit.

Concrete Actions to help develop a more ethical corporate culture[1]

  1. The “tone at the top” of your organization — the message, attitude, and image that senior management conveys to the rest of the company about the principles, values, and character of the organization.
  2. Reward ethical behavior. Reward staff that exceeds productivity or sales expectations, but also recognize employees that make sound ethical choices, and that meet compliance guidelines. Develop a tracking system (post sales customer questionnaires, ) that can identify when an employee makes an ethical decision in service of the customer and not just focused on the company or personal benefit.
  3. Distinguish between culture and perks. Perks are routinely considered a supplement or addition to the job, which can be taken advantage of occasionally or outright ignored. Conversely, the culture of your organization is present in every day-to-day task and cannot be easily overlooked. Indeed, adhering to the corporate Ethos is part of the job description and responsibility of all employees. It is a demand and not optional. In fact, abusing or ignoring corporate cultural expectations can be a cause for reprimand and even termination.
  4. Educate with compliance training. Your business should frequently offer compliance training that reflects and reinforces company ideals. And while some cultural elements will vary across businesses and industries, some elements should be non-negotiable and embraced by every organization, such as:
  5. Ethical business practices
  6. Diverse and inclusive hiring
  7. Zero tolerance for sexual harassment
  8. Security awareness and customer privacy
  9. In summary: If you, as a corporate leader feel that ethics in business is not an important factor, you will probably not have finished the article. But for those of you who agree, employers can be powerful influencers in helping to mold and improve ethical behavior not only in the workplace but also for society in general. One key consideration that has been diluted or completely missing over the past decades is accountability. If your company has to define policies, they must be supported or changed. There are always those individuals who fight the system and often that can be a good thing for making meaningful changes. However, obvious violations should be handled swiftly and consistently. Send the message to others that, like good parents, there is justice and understanding as well as swift and decisive action when appropriate.


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